One of the things my wife and I miss most about France (other than family… well most of the family) is the bread. This weekend I want to share my artisan bread recipe with you… something that I have been working on for almost 10 years… This might bore some of you… and this is definitely not that same as last weeks “diamond mining“… hopefully someone will find this useful… maybe even follow the recipe (if not I will probably say stupid things and have pictures… and you can just enjoy that part)
Before I write the recipe and process… (yes there is going to be a long complicated process… but not as bad as the raclette cheese making “how to”…I shared earlier) I want to offer some back story…
First of all… the title “wheat bread”… not sure it means the same to everyone reading this… (Several years back… I got laughed at in England when I was asked what kind of bread I preferred for my toast and I said “wheat”… Of course they thought I was joking… and I had no idea that it was called “brown” bread there.) This bread is made with freshly ground whole wheat flour… not the overly processed flour you buy in the store. Here is how this all got started… Once upon a time…a co-worker told me about a fantastic “wheat” sale. Logic dictated that I act… I hurried off from work and bought around 20 – 5 gallon buckets of wheat… (All justified to my wife with the preparing for the end of the world excuse… ) By the way… 20 buckets… is a lot of wheat…
Of course if you have wheat you must have a wheat grinder… so I bought a hand one… Thought I could workout as I made bread… (and during the end of the world… no power… so this is a no brainer)… It is really hard work… and after making my first loaf of bread (ever)… it was frankly not worth it. THIRTY MINUTES of grinding… (sweat dripping… heavy breathing grinding… wow that sounds inappropriate) and after all of this work… the bread was hard, dense and heavy… kind of like a wheat rock.. and well not very good tasting. Something had to change… or the wheat would just have to sit in the basement taking up space…(Probably not a good option if I want to keep my wife happy)
First fix… the lazy side of me told me to sneak back to the store (my wife is so patient) and buy an electric wheat mill…(leave the hand one new and ready for the apocalypse). They are expensive but a must have… I got a Nutrimill by L’Equip and love it. You can see the ground flour… ground at the miracle (when compared to previous hand milling) 5 cups per minute… (very noisy minutes)
Second fix… You know your first loaf of bread is bad when a neighbor comes over and says… wow that is really heavy… can you eat it? I had to find a recipe… preferably an old artisanal recipe… one with limited ingredients (in France often bread is just flour, water yeast and salt)… I started off on a quest… beginning with if it is a world meltdown… zombie or what ever… where would I get the yeast???
If this interests you… click continue reading… other wise leave me a comment and only say nice things… (if you are really lazy.. just hit like… still helps my ego)
Let’s start with the yeast… I wanted to “harvest”… “capture”… “wrangle”… my own yeast. (Probably cultivate is the right word… but that sounds so… uptight). I had no idea when beginning this how important this would be… both for texture and taste. Yeast occurs naturally if you search there is a million (maybe an exaggeration) ways to cultivate it. I didn’t like the sound of “sour dough starter” since I didn’t want a “sour dough” bread… but that was the answer. It is really easy to make and I have had this starter for almost 9 years. Here is the steps for creating this.
- 2 cups of whole wheat flour (freshly ground if possible)
- 2 cups of room temperature water (I used potato water… but you don’t need to)
- Mix together and let sit for 12 hours
- Feed mix (I remove one cup… throw away until ready… add 1 cup of water and flour then stir)
- Repeat this for the next week (morning night)
- You should start to see bubbles after a week….
- Once a week has passed do this process once a day for the next week
- Now things have got to be bubbly.. (if not check home for unhealthy levels of radiation)
- Feed now once a week and keep it in the fridge between feedings. You will remove about a cup… *use in bread… (hint…I let it sit out of the fridge overnight when I feed it… want it happy and bubbly again…).
- If you miss weeks it shouldn’t matter but don’t miss too many weeks… ( I have let this sit for up to a month and it was still fine...)
- After the initial 4 weeks it will be ready… and it only gets better with time.
Now for the Bread!!!
I initially started my quest in France asking as many “boulanger” as I could… (they are kind of tight lipped with their secrets.) One kind man (yes they do exist in France) told me he did it the old way… Explained his steps including the “fermentation” over night… and the importance of water/flour ratio… He is the inception point for this recipe… and I have adjusted and experimented (including some horrible failures) with this recipe and here is where it landed. This should work for everyone…
- 600 grams of whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (about) sour dough starter
- 12 grams of salt
- 400-500 ml of water
- 1 tsp of malt vinegar
- (optional but I always use this… speed things up) 10 grams of active yeast
Friday Night Steps:
Step 1 Create the Sponge. Add 300 grams of flour, 1 cup of sourdough starter, and 300 ml of (warm not hot)water. Let sit over night (about 12 hours)… this is also the time I feed the starter… A nice airy… kind of “gloopy”… “spongy” dough should be formed. (see picts)
Mix and Autolyse Steps… these steps seem strange…even WEIRD… The autolyse was a trick I learned from the french baker… and it does magic for the mixture. (I think autolyse… never used the word… means self degradation… could be wrong)
Step 2: Mix sponge from night before with 300 grams of flour, vinegar, and 100 – 200 ml of warm water… (want it to be on the sticky side… not like the bread dough you would expect)… Do not mix too long… just until it is all incorporated… than let sit 45 minutes
Step 3: Mix salt and if you don’t want to wait forever the optional yeast with dough. I use a electric mixer with a dough hook and knead the dough for five minutes. Let sit for another 45 minutes. (should resemble dough bread now)
Step 5: Stretch and Rise (do twice). On a floured surface deflate dough… then I stretch out from the sides and fold… turn 90 degrees and stretch from the sides and fold. Let sit 30 minutes… (repeat one more time… the bread dough should be doubled in size)
Step 6: Proof Bread. If I am creating a Boule (post feature picture) I form the dough into a ball (remember surface tension is important) and place it into a floured proofing basket. If I am creating an epi (you will create two with this recipe)… I roll dough into a baguette and then using scissors cut down the loaf and form the epi. Both sit for another 30 minutes
Step 7: Bake: The boule is cooked in “la cloche bread stoneware baker“… awesome stoneware for bread… while the epi is just on a regular tray (both have corn mill to keep the dough from sticking). The oven needs to be at 450 F or 233 C. When I place the bread in the oven I also splash one cup of water in the oven (in a pie tin on the bottom). Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the epis (they should be done) and for the boule… remove the dome and cook for 10 more minutes… reducing the heat to 400 F (or whatever that is in Celsius).
I wished you could smell and taste this… it is a complicated process but so worth it… You will have crusty airy bread that is delicious. (see below)
Hope you enjoyed this… don’t let all of the words and steps scare you… give it a try… (it is much better than sweat dripping… heavy breathing grinding… )